Ask any Star Trek fan what is their least favorite Star Trek movie–specifying that we’re not counting The Next Generation (TNG, for those in the know) and J.J. Abrams’ reboot–and they will undoubtedly say “five,” usually accompanied by a sigh or roll of the eyes. Even Ronald D. Moore (of TNG and Battlestar Galactica fame) said of Star Trek V: “we just don’t talk about it, ever.”
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which was the directorial debut of William Shatner, came at a time of retrenchment for the franchise. Star Trek’s II, III and IV featured a semi-continuous story line in which Kirk et al defeated Khan, stole and blew up the Enterprise, brought Spock back to life, and saved Earth with a time-travelling whale-napping environmental message. At the end of IV, they were given a new Enterprise and an almost-full pardon; the crew then sailed off into the ether in their fancy, sparkling ship.
Where would the franchise go from there? Bruce Springsteen followed up Born to Run with the restrained but brilliant Darkness on the Edge of Town. Star Trek, unfortunately, followed up transporting humpback whales via Klingon Bird of Prey with a crazed Vulcan who kidnapped some ambassadors and set out to find God.
Now, those of who you did not grow up obsessed with Star Trek—and, as a result, likely had an easier time finding dates in high school than those of us who did—may ask yourself, “sure it’s outlandish, but so is Star Trek. Can this movie really be that bad?”
The answer is, yes, yes it can. And it is.
Your next question, of course, will be “but why? Why is it so bad?”
I’m very glad you asked. Some of the problem had to do with the incomprehensible nature of the plot: why did the Federation and Klingons try to rescue their ambassadors but the Romulans didn’t? Why would the Federation send a ship that barely worked (more on this below) staffed by a bunch of 50-somethings on what basically amounted to a commando raid? What is the Great Barrier, and why haven’t we heard about this before?
But most of the problems had to do with the film’s execution. I cannot tell you what happened with the cinematography, script, or directing to make this movie so painful. I can, however, highlight the six moments in the film that were so bad that they—for me at least—ruined the movie, and nearly ended my escapist obsession with Star Trek.
So here they are, in order of appearance.
I should note, I don’t count William Shatner doing amazing and unbelievable feats (climbing a cliff, fighting God) since he was really just preparing for his contemporary persona. Oh, and obviously these probably count as spoilers. [Insert pun about spoiling a bad movie, spoiling a franchise, what have you]
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